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State ERA Amendment now part of Delaware Constitution

Sarah Mueller
Delaware Public Media
House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst hugs people after the state ERA Amendment passes.

Delaware now has a state Equal Rights Amendment. The 16-word amendment bars discrimination based on sex.

It cleared the Senate 16 to 5. Republican Sens. Bryant Richardson, Dave Lawson, Brian Pettyjohn, David Wilson and Gerald Hocker voted no.

House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, who has spent more than two years working to pass it, said she’s overwhelmed by the accomplishment.

“To say we have equal rights in the state of Delaware today, at this moment, going forward," she said. "Doesn’t have to be signed into law, it is law.”

Richardson said he’s against the state ERA because judges are not accountable to the voters like lawmakers and there could be unintended consequences from this change to the state’s constitution.

The ERA’s Senate sponsor State Sen. Stephanie Hansen dismisses Richardson’s concerns. She said judges interpret laws.

“Again, we go back to this issue of intent," she said. "We have now language in the bill that says this is our intent.”

Republican State Sen. Anthony Delcollo brokered a compromise last year adding language to clarify the intent of the amendment to address concerns regarding private sector wages, single sex services and abortion funding.

Delcollo said civil rights is a pillar of the American way of life.

Republican State Sen. Anthony Delcollo voted “yes.” He helped broker a compromise last year to answer concerns about the state ERA. It clarified the amendment’s intent regarding private sector wages, single-sex programs and abortion services.

Amendments must pass both chambers in two consecutive sessions to change the Delaware Constitution. It passed the House last week after clearing both chambers last year.

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